Family Cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae)

Least Concern

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)


French: Grand Cormoran German: Kormoran Spanish: Cormorán grande

Pelecanus Carbo


, 1758,



Probably closely related to P. capillatus. Race lucidus often considered a separate species, and maroccanus may also deserve consideration; however, while there is a superficial attraction in separating out these forms as species, given the distribution of white in the plumage and the subtler differences in green vs blue gloss and in size, these distinctions are unlikely to score sufficiently high under the system used herein, particularly as there is variation within taxa and a tendency towards intergradation at boundaries. Race novaehollandiae may be a separate species; alternatively, replaced by further races carboides (Australia) and steadi (New Zealand area). Race hanedae may be better considered synonymous with sinensis. Proposed race lugubris (E Africa) regarded as synonym of lucidus. Six subspecies normally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. c. carbo (Linnaeus, 1758) – Common Great Cormorant – NE North America (Gulf of St Lawrence S to Maine) through SW Greenland and Iceland to Norway, NW Russia (Kola Peninsula) and British Is; also winters in SE USA, S Europe and N Africa.
  • P. c. sinensis (Staunton, 1796) – C & S Europe and patchily through much of C Asia to Russian Far East, India and China; also winters in Africa and SE Asia.
  • P. c. hanedae Nagamichi Kuroda, 1925 – Japan.
  • P. c. maroccanus E. J. O. Hartert, 1906 – Moroccan Cormorant – NW Africa from Morocco S to Mauritania.
  • P. c. lucidus (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1823) – White-breasted Cormorant – coastal W & S Africa, inland E Africa.
  • P. c. novaehollandiae Stephens, 1826 – Australasian Great Cormorant – Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, Chatham Is, and recently recorded breeding in New Caledonia (Grand Terre)#R and Solomons (Rennell)#R.
  • Descriptive notes

    80–100 cm; 1810–2810 g, female lighter; wingspan 130–160 cm. Breeding adult of nominate race glossy black overall, with shaggy mane on nape, most of plumage... read more


    Usually silent away from breeding colonies, but occasionally utters a low guttural “karrk” or “... read more


    The most widespread cormorant species, ranging from Arctic to tropics. Frequents open waters, both... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly fish, with some crustaceans and amphibians. Reported to take quantities of the ragworm Nereis virens when it swarms in... read more


    Season variable: laying mostly Apr–Jun in temperate parts of N Hemisphere; year-round in tropics. However, five-year study of colony... read more


    Sedentary or dispersive throughout most of its range but the more northerly populations of the N... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Global population was estimated in 2006 to be in range of 1·4–2·9 million individuals . Overall trend increasing... read more

    Recommended citation

    Orta, J., Garcia, E.F.J., Jutglar, F., Kirwan, G.M. & Boesman, P. (2020). Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 29 February 2020).